The journey from Farmland to E-Commerce - News & Views

The journey from Farmland to E-Commerce - News & Views

Posted by Rishi Saunam on May 28th 2022

Growing up in a tea farming family, I had never thought I would spend almost all my adult life in the tea industry. I got involved in the business to promote my parent's harvest in 2000 right out of college in Florida while working as a full time job as a licensed mortgage broker.

The Tea Gardens & Business

My parents were manufacturing about a million kilos annually, of the finest Assam black tea. Within a decade the business was supplying hundreds of bulk buyers across US & Canada as well as many other countries. All that changed overnight after a mortal tragedy with my parents in their tea garden in 2012. I was given no choice and return to Assam to do my duty and take care of the family tea gardens. 

In 2016, on my return to the West, decisions needed to be made immediately regarding whether we exit the tea business, or evolve with new conditions. With the family tea gardens gone, and my business here only a shadow of its former self, a decision was made to stay in the tea business.

The Food Service Business

Restarting the business again as a tea importer and blender, we focused on building a new client base in the food service industry. We imported and blended exceptional teas. Soon we had fine dining restaurants, artisanal coffee roasters and others sourcing their teas from our business. As time progressed our business began to flourish. Then came Covid shutdowns. 

The last 2+ years have devastated businesses worldwide. Many of our high end clients no longer offered after dinner tea service, others chose to serve teabags, while some customers wanted terms that will make the business unviable. Even through most of our business was Assam tea, we also provided dozens of other teas and herbs for our wholesale buyers. We managed to cruise through the pandemic without changing our business model, when disaster stuck in November 2021. 

Supply Chain Break & Repair

Our consignments from Assam 2nd flush 2021 harvest tea, which were suppose to reach us by mid-November was initially delayed due to supply chain issues. Later our products were shipped to different ports to be trucked to our facility and misplaced in transit. 

By January, we were without any more Assam teas, as we waited for insurance claims to be paid. There were many opportunities to purchase older stored teas, however our business model has always been to offer garden fresh teas, and as the founder I was not willing to compromise quality.

The new spring tea harvest in March 2022 showed us a light at the end of the tunnel. Still, an obstacle persisted; all costs, especially shipping costs had risen dramatically during this unprecedented period of market chaos. 

Currently (end of May 2022), our first flush teas are sitting in Kolkata waiting for transport. Air transport costs have sky rocketed and we are doing our best to establish new commercial shipping relationships and negotiate lower prices. By mid-June we are anticipating all our delicious high quality Assam teas back in stock. 

There are many clients waiting for their teas, and I thank you all for your patience. I am already buying second flush Assams, and will have no more complex disruptions going forward this year.

The E-Commerce & Content World

Realizing the old business model is no longer viable I have decided to take the wheel and evolve and implement, new ideas in the tea business.

Growing up in a family farming tea and as a tea planter myself, I have four decades of experience and many stories to share, plus some of the finest teas in town for you.

I think the best way to start sharing my passion would be via video, as its the most interactive. I am going to put my energy into YouTube by making videos about tea from the views of a Assam tea planter. Come and listen to my YouTube channel at assamtea.tv.

By creating content and sharing my passion about tea we can learn a few things, perhaps have some laughs, and it inspires you to purchase some of my delicious teas. Check them out!

Yours Sincerely,

Saunam Bhattacharjee

@rishisaunam | rishisaunam.com